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JORDAN v. KEIM

August 3, 2005.

DERRICK JORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVE KEIM, EUGENE McADORY, BARBARA MUELLER, SHERRY HILE, JACKIE MILLER and JOHN DOE, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STIEHL, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered. Therefore, his motion for additional time to pay that fee (Doc. 8) is MOOT.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening. — The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. — On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint —
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.

  COUNT 1

  Plaintiff states that since January 2001, he has been a practitioner of the Hebrew Israelite faith. On January 29, 2003, pursuant to I.D.O.C. regulations, he filed a request with Defendant Keim to be allowed to participate in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning on April 17, 2003. On April 16, Plaintiff learned that his name was not on the list of those approved to participate in the Feast. He filed an emergency grievance with Defendant McAdory, who deemed the situation not an emergency and thus required Plaintiff to proceed through the regular grievance process. That grievance was subsequently denied by Barbara Mueller on April 28, 2003, and then again on September 11, 2003, by Sherry Hile. Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights by failing to approve him for participation in the Feast, as he complied with the Department procedures for filing his request.

  The law is clear that a prisoner retains his or her First Amendment right to practice his religion, subject to prison regulations that do not discriminate between religions and are reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987); Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); Sasnett v. Litscher, 197 F.3d 290, 292 (7th Cir. 1999). It is also well-settled that observance of religiously mandated dietary restrictions is a form of religious practice protected by the First Amendment. Hunafa v. Murphy, 907 F.2d 46, 47 (7th Cir. 1990) (citing cases). However, a prisoner's right to freely exercise his religious beliefs does not depend upon his ability to pursue each and every aspect of the practice of his religion. See O'Lone, 482 U.S. at 352; Hunafa, 907 F.2d at 48. See also Hadi v. Horn, 830 F.2d 779, 784, 787-88 (7th Cir. 1987) (occasional and sporadic cancellation of religious services, where other opportunities for religious observance were provided, did not unreasonably impinge on inmates' First Amendment rights); Al-Alamin v. Gramley, 926 F.2d 680, 688-89 (7th Cir. 1991).

  The regulation in question provides:
A committed person requesting a dietary modification required by a specific religious holiday or ceremony must submit a written request to the facility chaplain 45 calendar days before the holiday or ceremony. The request must contain verification that the committed person is a member of a faith group requiring the dietary modification and the specific requirements of the dietary modification. Eligibility to receive an alternative diet for a specific religious holiday or ceremony shall be determined by the facility chaplain who shall ordinarily confer with a religious leader or faith representative of the faith group at issue. The facility chaplain and religious leader or faith representative may interview the committed person.
20 Ill. Admin. Code § 425.70(d).

  Attached to the complaint are several exhibits; Exhibit A is a carbon-copy of a note addressed to Keim, dated January 29, 2003, and signed by Plaintiff. The note is captioned "Re: Religious observance" and consists of the following statement: "I request to be able to observe the upcoming Feast Days, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, receiving the appropriate trays for the Feast of Unleavened Bread." This request clearly does not meet the requirements of the Department rule — it makes no reference to any specific faith group, it does not contain any statement averring that Plaintiff is a practitioner of any faith that might observe these religious feast days, and it does not specify the required dietary modifications for this specific religious observance.

  Because Plaintiff's request does not even marginally comply with the Department's regulation, his constitutional rights were not violated when Keim did not include his name on the list of those approved to participate in the Feast. It follows that, if Keim's actions were not violative of the First Amendment, neither were the actions of McAdory, Mueller or Hile in denying Plaintiff's grievances over this matter.

  Therefore, Plaintiff has not presented a viable constitutional claim regarding Defendants' failure to provide him with a special religious diet in April 2003, and Count 1 is dismissed from this action with prejudice.

  COUNT 2

  Plaintiff's second claim also involves participation in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In this claim, he alleges that for three years in a row, he was not allowed to participate in the Feast, even though he claims to have filed a timely request each year in compliance with the Department rule. Therefore, he claims that Keim, who is Jewish, has intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff because he follows the Hebrew Israelite faith.

  The events leading up to the 2003 Feast have already been discussed above in Count 1; it is clear that the 2003 request, although timely, did not comport with the Department's rule. As for 2002, Plaintiff states that he filed his request on February 11, which was exactly 45 days prior to the commencement of the Feast, which he alleges began on March 28. Keim's interpretation, as indicated in Exhibit E, a Memorandum dated July 26, 2002, from Mavis Gross, was that Plaintiff's request needed to be filed on or before February 10, as Passover began on March 27.

  In 2001, Plaintiff's request (Exhibit F) is dated February 19, and it states, "In accordance with D.R. 425.70(d), I am requesting to be placed on the list to participate in the Feast of Unleaven Bread. I am a Hebrew Israelite." Again, similar to his 2003 request, this brief note does not comply with the Department regulation, as it does ...


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